Clarity First Newsletter,
November 1, 2019

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” – Yogi Berra


Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

Yogi Berra was so right. Our future is not confined by how we got here. Because our brains are completely elastic we have the capacity to develop completely new ways of going forward.

Regarding the future we want, I think Elvis Costello framed the question really well: “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?”.

Happy Friday.


How the brain’s ability to adapt can allow for better decision-making for social good

“Brain agility and neuroplasticity are attributes that make us more adaptable and resilient and also increase our sense of agency in an ever-changing world. As geo-political and psycho-social crises are impacting us and our children at unprecedented levels, we are mindlessly creating a dystopian future and future leaders ill-equipped to deal with this. Of all the elements of brain agility, including: mastering our emotions; understanding the brain-body connection; trusting our intuition; making decisions for social good; staying motivated to reach our goals; and reframing creativity to allow us to design a future we can feel good about; it is creativity that can harness the most from the power of neuroplasticity….”

Tara Swart had me at brain agility, and she sold me on social good. We can do this, but what got us here will not get us where we want to go. The good news is that the brains we used to get here are ready and eager to learn. And there are brand new brains being born every day.

Book excerpt: The Neuroscience of Creativity

Societal Evolution

Between the Great Depression and WWII Americans started using the word  ‘need’ more than the word ‘love’.

Usage of the words love (blue) versus need (red) in the American Corpus over the last 300 years.
Source: Google ngram/American English Corpus

“At one point in time in the English language, (the word) love was the driver. Over time the needs of the individual overcame the unity of a shared reality and ushered in the age of the individual and their needs.”

Friends, from where I sit the age of the individual is not working out too well. As John Lennon suggested, love might be the answer. Part of the puzzle might be reframing love as a commitment to learning to channel energies of cooperation toward the common good.

Article: Words Create Worlds

Learning, Social Messaging, Shared Values

“In that troubled time, many thoughtful people had given up on education, or given up on the idea that representatives of the ‘mainstream’ could ever be much help to the ‘minority.’”

Image by Claudia Y. Ros is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“The Children’s Television Workshop founder Joan Ganz Cooney noticed that preschool kids watched television enthusiastically and that they paid especially close attention to commercials. CTW took heart from this. Couldn’t an educational television program appropriate the jump-cut technique of Laugh-In, and the bold graphics of Batman to help kids learn the basics?  Couldn’t a television program for kids educate and entertain?

“The answer seems obvious to us now, as Sesame Street watchers routinely point out that the goal post looks like an H or that tires look like Os. But in that troubled time, many thoughtful people had given up on education, or given up on the idea that representatives of the ‘mainstream’ could ever be much help to the ‘minority.’”

Article: Strolling Down Sesame Street. Fifty Years and Counting.

Learning, Creativity

Together, time, space and materials provide ‘invitations to act’.

“It’s the combination of unhurried and uninterrupted time, inviting spaces and materials that guides mind and hands, that invites creative thinking. Seeing, handling, and thinking are inseparable, ….”

Whatever reasons we bring to “I’m not creative”, they might be discovered and loosened with just time, space and materials.

Article: Time, Space, and Materials

Organizational Health, Diversity

Creativity and innovation thrive in environments with divergent perspectives.

“In January 2018, management consultancy McKinsey published its Delivering Through Diversity study, which found that there was a strong link between diversity and financial performance. Among the six countries surveyed, including the UK, companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams were 33 per cent more likely to outperform their peers on profitability. That number increased to a whopping 43 per cent with companies that have culturally diverse boards. The report also found that more inclusive companies were able to attract and retain talent, improve decision-making and increase customer insight.”

Article: The Creative Benefits of Diversity

Sustainability, Collaboration, Next Economy

Why a collaborative approach for small to medium sized enterprises is so significant for attaining sustainable development goals. 

“Businesses cannot work in silos. Although we live in a competitive world, leveraging complementary resources like research, finance and intellectual property among firms, can accelerate innovation and organizational changes.”

Article: Honey, I Shrunk The R&D Cost: How ‘Open Innovation’ Can Sharpen Competitive Edge 

Graphic Design, Mentors

“Ultimately, the typography took over.”

Paula Scher. Image credit: Ian Roberts

“If you visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York, pop into a Citibank branch, use Microsoft Windows 8 or walk past Tiffany & Co., then you’re looking at the work of Paula Scher.”

“A partner at Pentagram since 1991, she began her career as an art director in the 1970s and ’80s, when she earned a reputation for her eclectic approach to typography. Since then, she has worked with a whole host of clients – Bloomberg, Coca-Cola, the High Line – crafting identity and branding systems, promotional materials, environmental graphics, packaging and publication designs.”

Katy Cowan got a chance to sit her down and start at the beginning. “I was born in Washington, DC and went to school in Philadelphia, then moved to New York in 1970 with a portfolio and sixty dollars to look for a job. I would not advise anybody in the world to do that now [Laughs]. It would be impossible. But I did it. It was easy to get a job in those days because it was a wide-open profession.”

Article: Paula Scher On Falling in Love with Typography, Timeless Identities and What it Takes to Become a Great Designer


Born in 1989 in Red Bluff, California, a town of 14,000 people 130 miles north of Sacramento, Margaret Glaspy says that she grew up in a musical family. “No one is tone deaf. Everyone can sing, there were always a lot of guitars around the house. So it was really pretty natural for me to fall into music.” She got a fellowship to Berklee, and when the money ran out she audited the courses she most wanted to take. She made her first solo record in 2012. In 2016 she released the album Emotions and Math. I really like it.

She performed this set that year on KEXP while touring with a great bass player and a great drummer. This is my favorite kind of rock. She’s as vulnerable as Liz Phair, as quirky as Stephen Malkmus, and she has the nerves of Patti Smith.  And, yikes, she is as clever as all three. You’ve heard a Fender Telecaster played through a Fender Blues Deluxe amp plenty of times. To hear that sound made fresh and new is a such a treat.

Image of the week

The image of the week is by Stacy Kranitz, a photographer born in Kentucky and currently based in east Tennessee. She has spent the past ten years photographing Appalachia.

“Stretching from the south of New York to northern Alabama and Georgia, Appalachia has been marked as a distinctive region since the late 19th Century and has suffered ongoing stereotypes and myths throughout the years. The early 20th Century brought logging and coal-mining firms, jobs and various modern technologies to the region. However, as the demand for lumber dramatically increased, the firms took to the virgin forests and devastated the natural land. Therefore, the government took to controlling timber harvesting in order to preserve the forests, in turn precipitating a dramatic loss of jobs in the 1950s that left most of central and southern Appalachia in poverty. In the 1960s, a War on Poverty was declared.

“Stacy refers to the history of Appalachia as a ‘great divide’, and one that’s been ‘devastated and abused by a capitalist extraction industry’. When the industry made its appearance, it “stole all the land” from the original inhabitants. ‘They wrought havoc on the ability of the people who lived there to survive,’ she says. ‘They ruined the physical landscape, blew up the mountains and poisoned the waters – then they left when there were no more resources left.’”

As it was Give(n) to Me is currently on show at Tracey Morgan Gallery in Asheville, NC, until December 7.

Article: “I began to question the honesty of it”: Stacy Kranitz on the flaws of documentary photography

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If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

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